• Sitka Conservation Society publishes resource guide for statewide Fish to Schools programs

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The Sitka Conservation Society, which coordinates Sitka’s Fish to Schools program, has published a new resource guide, A Guide to Serving Local Fish in School Cafeterias, to help other school districts around the state implement similar programs in their communities.

F2S_Elementary2The Sitka Fish to Schools program came out of the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, when local residents chose as one of its community wellness projects to serve more local seafood in our schools. Since then the program has grown so that all students from Grades 2-12 in Sitka have a local seafood lunch option at least twice a month. This includes the Sitka School District schools, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Blatchley Middle School, Sitka High School, and Pacific High School, plus other local schools, the state-run boarding school Mount Edgecumbe High School and the private K-8 The SEER School.

Sitka is one of the first districts in the state to serve local seafood through the National School Lunch Program and has become a leader in the State of Alaska in getting local foods into schools. In the last three years, the number of schools interested in serving local seafood has increased ten-fold. Haines, Dillingham, Kodiak, Galena, and Juneau are a few of the districts that are now serving seafood in their meal programs.

In an effort to support regional and statewide efforts to serve local foods in schools, the Sitka Conservation Society developed a “how-to” guide to serving fish in schools. Using Sitka as a case study, it outlines procurement and processing strategies, legalities, tips, and recipes. Also included are case studies from around the state that offer tips and suggestions based on the success of their programs.

F2S_Elementary3The Sitka Fish to Schools program has seen an increase in meal participation on fish lunch days, likely attributed to the participation of students who typically bring a sack lunch. One student who reported never liking fish started to eat fish after a local chef came to her classroom. Others students circle fish lunch dates on their school lunch calendar, refusing home lunch that day. And why are they so excited? A middle school student put it this way, “It’s healthy and good for you and you feel good after you eat it.” Others give reasons of wanting to become a fisherman or cite the economic value to their community.

In addition to this guide is the “Stream to Plate” curriculum, a unit of seven lessons that connect salmon to the classroom. The lessons address the ecological significance and human relationship to salmon. These lessons have been tried and refined the last three years with third graders at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School.

Chris Bryner, teacher and collaborator on the salmon unit said, “The Fish to Schools curriculum connects my classroom to the community. Students not only learn about a resource relevant to their daily lives, but come away with an understanding that learning happens inside and outside of school.”

As the ninth largest seafood port in the country, Sitka is paving the way for locally-sourced meals. Their efforts are part of a larger national movement, Farm to School, to get local foods in schools. The Alaska Farm to School program honored Sitka’s Fish to Schools program for its innovation a couple of years ago.

celebrate fish to state“The beauty of Fish to Schools is that it provides a practical, local solution to a multitude of current global issues,” Fish to Schools Co-Founder Lexi Fish said. Local sourcing reduces the environmental impact of foods grown and raised thousands of miles away and ultimately supports a more resilient food system.

Local fish in school lunches not only tastes “delicus” (stet), as one third grader put it, but also addresses food justice, nutrition, community sustainability, and conservation. To get a free copy of the guide and curriculum, visit http://sitkawild.org/2014/03/a-guide-to-serving-local-fish-in-school-cafeterias/ or contact Sitka Conservation Society Community Sustainability Organizer Tracy Gagnon at 747.7509 or tracy@sitkawild.org.

Also, don’t forget to stop by the Celebrate Fish to State event from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 20, at Blatchley Middle School to learn more about the efforts to expand the Fish to Schools program statewide.

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• Celebrate Fish to State takes place on March 20 to support statewide Fish to Schools program

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SCSCohoPortionsForCookingSitka’s Fish to Schools program has been extremely successful the past three years, and now there’s a movement to make similar programs available statewide. Join us from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 20, at Blatchley Middle School as we celebrate Fish to State.

This event will celebrate the success of the Sitka Fish to Schools program, which is coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society and other partners. The event will include short presentations from Sitka School Board President Lon Garrison, Sitka Local Foods Network President Lisa Sadleir-Hart, and Sitka Conservation Society Community Sustainability Organizer Tracy Gagnon. Light refreshments will be available.

The Sitka Fish to Schools program came out of the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, when local residents chose as one of its community wellness projects to serve more local seafood in our schools. Since then the program has grown so that all students from Grades 2-12 in Sitka have a local seafood lunch option at least twice a month. This includes the Sitka School District schools, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School, Blatchley Middle School, Sitka High School, and Pacific High School, plus other local schools, the state-run boarding school Mount Edgecumbe High School and the private K-8 The SEER School. The award-winning program has served as a model for a handful of other school districts in Alaska, and now there is a push to make it available statewide with a full curriculum and resource guide, plus financial support.

For more information, contact Ray Friedlander of the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 or ray@sitkawild.org.

 

• Sitka Conservation Society to host annual Wild Foods Potluck on Dec. 8 at Sweetland Hall

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WildFoodsPotluckHelp Sitka celebrate its wonderful bounty of local and wild foods by joining the Sitka Conservation Society for its annual Wild Foods Potluck from 5-7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 8, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

This annual event features a variety of wild foods that can be harvested around Sitka, including many varieties of fish, deer, ducks, berries, seaweed, beach greens, and more. This event gives local residents a chance to sample a multitude of wild food dishes for a true taste of Sitka. If you don’t have any wild foods, just garnish your dish with a local plant.

“Bring a dish that features ingredients from the outdoors and meet others interested in subsistence foods and the conservation field,” said the Sitka Conservation Society’s Ray Friedlander, who is helping coordinate the event. “Your dish could win a prize if you enter it into the Best Dish, Best Side, and Best Dessert category.”

This event is non-alcoholic, and it is open to all residents of Sitka, including members and non-members of the Sitka Conservation Society. For more information, contact Ray Friedlander or Mary Wood at the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509, or go to http://www.sitkawild.org/.

• Sitka residents say ‘No’ to genetically modified salmon during Feb. 9 rally

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Size comparison of an AquAdvantage® Salmon (background) vs. a non-transgenic Atlantic salmon sibling (foreground) of the same age. (CREDIT AquaBounty)

Size comparison of an AquAdvantage® Salmon (background) vs. a non-transgenic Atlantic salmon sibling (foreground) of the same age. (CREDIT AquaBounty)

Between 100 and 150 Sitka residents braved the wind and rain on Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Crescent Harbor Shelter to protest the possible U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of genetically modified salmon (aka, GMO or GE salmon, or Frankenfish).

The rally (click here to listen to rally coverage from KCAW-Raven Radio) was in protest of a genetically engineered salmon from the Massachusetts company AquaBounty Technologies, called the AquAdvantage® Salmon. The GMO salmon starts with an Atlantic salmon commonly used in fish farms, but adds genes from a Pacific king (chinook) salmon to promote growth and genes from an eel-like fish called an ocean pout that grows all year round instead of seasonally. According to AquaBounty, all of the commercialized fish will be female and sterile, and the fish are designed to be raised in fresh-water pens or tanks on land instead of the usual salt-water pens where most farmed Atlantic salmon are raised. AquaBounty promotes the fish as a faster-growing farmed salmon that takes half the time to reach maturity and be sent to market. To learn more about GMO salmon, read our post from 2010.

PaulRiouxSignsPaul Rioux — the Sitka resident who organized the rally with the help of local fishing groups, the Sitka Conservation Society, and others — said fishermen are concerned about what happens if these GMO salmon escape from pens. He noted that while AquaBounty said the fish will be sterile, other scientists said as many as 5 percent could be fertile, and that’s enough so that the GMO salmon as an invasive species could replace wild Pacific salmon within 40 salmon generations. DavidWilcoxSpeaksSignsDavid Wilcox, a 14-year-old Sitka resident who plans to run across the country to protest GMO foods, spoke for the other residents who said they were concerned with genetically engineered fish in general, and they worried this fish might go to market without being labeled as GMO salmon. (Click here to listen to Rioux, Wilcox and Ray Friedlander of the Sitka Conservation Society discuss why they held the rally during a Feb. 8 Morning Edition interview on KCAW-Raven Radio.)

SayNoToFrankenfishThe FDA, which has been looking at GMO salmon for more than a decade (AquaBounty started work on the fish in 1989), announced in December it planned to approve the genetically engineered fish, just in time for the holidays. At the same time, the FDA finally released environmental impact research papers it was supposed to have released in May. The FDA announcement also started a 60-day public comment period that was supposed to end on Feb. 25. On Feb. 13, the FDA extended the comment period until April 26. Sitka residents are encouraged to go to Regulations.gov and search for “GE salmon” (not “GMO”) to comment on the regulations before the April 26 deadline.

PatKehoeFrankenfishAlaska’s Congressional delegation agrees on few items, but Sen. Mark Begich, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young have been united for a couple of years in their efforts to stop Frankenfish. Sen. Begich this week introduced two bills banning GMO salmon. Last May, Sen. Murkowski introduced an amendment (that failed 50-46) requiring more study of GMO salmon by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA). In the House, Rep. Young has been one of the most vocal opponents of Frankenfish and in February he introduced a bill requiring GMO salmon be labeled. In the Alaska House of Representatives, Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) and Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) introduced an anti-Frankenfish bill that passed out of the House Fisheries Committee this week.

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• Sitka Conservation Society to host annual wild foods potluck on Nov. 29

The Sitka Conservation Society will host its annual wild foods potluck from 5-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29, at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Doors open at 5 p.m. so people can bring in their dishes, and food will be served at 5:30 p.m.

This free, family friendly, alcohol-free event allows Sitka residents to share their favorite locally foraged or harvested dishes with their neighbors. Residents bring in dishes featuring fish, wild game, seaweed, berries and other tasty treats highlighting wild food from around Sitka. Everybody is encouraed to bring in your favorite dishes featuring wild food, and if you can’t bring in a dish with wild food you can use wild plants to garnish dishes made from store-bought food.

The theme of this year’s wild foods potluck is “Restoration in the Sitka Community Use Area.” There will be live music, prizes awarded to the best wild food dishes (with categories such as “most wild”), and all kinds of other fun, stories and community.

For more information, go to http://www.sitkawild.org/events/ for a full schedule and list of contest categories. You also can call Ray Friedlander with the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509.